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SALT LAKE CITY — A historic mansion on Utah's premier avenue will serve as an "embassy" to the state and connect the University of Utah to the downtown area.
University officials unveiled the newly renovated Wall Mansion on Wednesday, which will now be known as the Thomas S. Monson Center after the current president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church donated the building to the university in 2014, and President Monson is an alumnus of the university.
The 25,000-square-foot building, west wing and carriage house will be home to the university's Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. The mansion at 411 E. South Temple will also host dignitaries, symposiums, wedding receptions, and other public and private events.
"We view this as the university's embassy to the state of Utah," said Jason Perry, U. vice president for government relations and director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics.
President Monson, along with his counselors in the First Presidency, President Henry B. Eyring and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, and President Russell M. Nelson, M. Russell Ballard and Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, joined other university, government and civic leaders attending the unveiling ceremony.
"His ties are very close to the university, so for him it's wonderful, but I think for the church as well. It’s nice to have a place where good ideas and good education will go forward across the world in his name," President Eyring said after the event.
President Monson graduated from the U. with a business management degree in 1948, served as a faculty member and received an honorary doctorate in 2007.
President Eyring said the church looks forward to the center becoming a "source of enlightenment."
"In addition to its iconic architecture, the Wall Mansion is the ideal setting for the community-building events and innovative, dynamic policy ideas that will be generated here," he said during the program.
The $10 million renovation was covered by private contributions from several sources, including the LDS Church, Kem Gardner, Roger and Sara Boyer, the Clark & Christine Ivory Foundation, the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation, the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation and the Sorenson Legacy Foundation.
The off-campus location on what was known as Brigham Street a century ago and where important decisions in state history were made aims to connect the University of Utah to the state Capitol, City Hall and the downtown business district.
"We hope that like the Brigham Street of old, the Thomas S. Monson Center will be a place where the university and the community can intersect, where we can come together and talk about problems of the day, where new perspectives will be gained and new knowledge discovered," said U. President David Pershing.
The university intends to bring scholars, economists, business leaders and civic authorities together to look at issues pertinent to the state, and advance policies that foster growth and development.
"I don't know of a better place where this could happen," said Kem Gardner, a real estate developer and the policy institute's namesake.
Natalie Gochnour, U. business school associate dean and policy institute director, said the center gives the university an inviting presence on South Temple, the city's premier street that has been home to mayors, governors and senators.
"It's a place where we can build bridges in the community because we're located not up on the hill where it's sort of intimidating, large campus, academia, if you will," she said.
Utah Jazz owner and philanthropist Gail Miller, co-chairwoman of the policy institute advisory board, said it's apt that the center is named for President Monson because it will honor what transpires there. He has spent his life in service, she said, and there could be no better example for setting policy than that of serving others.
"It will be a beacon of hope to the people in our community and beyond," Miller said.
The mansion, completed in 1912, was the residence of copper mining magnate Enos A. Wall. The LDS Church bought the mansion in 1962 to house LDS Business College. The college moved to the Triad Center in July 2006.
James Sharp, a chancellor for the university from 1882 to 1883, originally owned the land. He also served on the university's governing board and was the sixth mayor of Salt Lake City.
Wall bought the Sharp mansion in 1904 and hired renowned architect Richard K. A. Kletting to remodel it. Kletting designed the Utah Capitol.
"It is fitting, then, that this place, which already has played a role in essential developments of Utah history and helped shape so many lives for the better, is now poised to contribute to the development of truly extraordinary people and ideas," President Eyring said.
Architects, contractors and craftsman worked to restore much of the mansion's original elegance, including demolishing the east wing and refurbishing the east entrance to its former state. They also restored the facade and turn-of-the-century style, while mixing modern touches and conveniences.
Other contributors to the renovation include Zions Bank, American Express, KSL Broadcast Group and the Deseret News.